With the NBA Draft about two months away, the New Jersey Nets will begin evaluating which selections can help them win immediately.
Adding Deron Williams was a good start, but the team must budget for its future as it prepares for its move to Brooklyn.
The Nets hold the No. 27 and 36 overall picks in the draft. The proximity of these two draft picks should ensure that the Nets come away with useful talent.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the Nets that may occur during the draft.
This may not be so bold, but the Nets will look to draft to fill some of their needs.
Right now, New Jersey appears set at the point guard, power forward and center position with Deron Williams, Kris Humphries (if he’s re-signed) and Brook Lopez.
The Nets should look at small forwards and shooting guards in the draft. Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw played well off the bench, and may be better suited for that role.
Damion James missed a lot of time this season due to injury, so he will need to prove he can stay healthy before being handed the starting small forward role.
The Nets will also look to add players who can provide depth—possibly a backup center to Lopez.
Free agency may be an option to add these players, but the draft should fill some of the Nets needs.
Most likely, the Nets won’t be trading up from their current spot to draft in a higher position.
This year’s draft features some very talented players, but not as many as years past. With the Nets drafting position, trading up for players of similar talent levels may not be necessary.
Unless the Nets plan on making a run at Arizona’s Derrick Williams—who actually would make a ton of sense for the Nets—New Jersey should remain at No. 27 and 36. Williams is projected as the No. 1 overall pick.
Though many of the freshmen thought to be entering the draft will be returning to school, some players will still be going through the “one-and-done” routine.
Josh Selby of Kansas, Tobias Harris of Tennessee and, barring a major slip, Terrence Jones of Kentucky highlight the freshmen that may wind up in the Nets range.
However, the Nets should stay away from freshmen. New Jersey will need some experience if they plan on returning to the postseason, and more seasoned college players may be wiser options.
Nothing against these freshmen and, in fact, some like Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight have the chance to be big time NBA players, but the Nets though should focus on polished players.
The Nets may explore drafting an international player with either of their earlier picks.
A center from the Congo, Bismack Biyombo, is a long shot-blocker who would provide depth for Brook Lopez. Though undersized for a center (6’9”), Biyombo makes up for it with a 7’7” wingspan.
NBAdraft.net projects Biyombo as a mid-first round pick, so he would have to slip down the boards to be an option for the Nets.
A more realistic option could be Nikola Mirotic, a 6’10” forward from Montenegro.
Mirotic possesses a strong outside shot, and may even be still available at No. 36. New Jersey could draft another skill player at No. 27 and hope Mirotic is still around.
A player that should wind up right in the Nets range is Jon Leuer of Wisconsin.
Leuer averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game during his senior season at Wisconsin.
Though the 6’10” power forward/center could make sense as a backup big man for the Nets, New Jersey should stay away.
Leuer has been characterized as a soft big man who is not athletic. While he put up big numbers, analysts have debated if his game will translate into the NBA.
Whether or not these scouts are correct, there are better options for the Nets than Leuer.
The Nets may look to draft an instant offense player with their early picks.
Anthony Morrow fit that bill this season, and may be rewarded with a full-time starting role for the Nets next year. If so, New Jersey should look to draft a player who could spell Morrow but still provide similar offensive output.
Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson could be a good fit. He’s a 6’10” power forward who could stretch the floor but also finish inside. He could still be alive at pick No. 27.
Marshon Brooks of Providence may be on the board at No. 36. Brooks tied the Big East single game scoring record with 52 points against Notre Dame in late February. He averaged 24.6 points per game, and could be a source of instant offense off the Nets bench. He probably could even start.
Another option could be Norris Cole from Cleveland State. Cole averaged 21.7 points and shot 34 percent from beyond the arch. He played point guard in college, but the Nets already appear set there with Deron Williams and Jordan Farmar.
When the Nets made the deal for Sasha Vujacic, they received a versatile player who could fill in at multiple positions.
Avery Johnson liked having this luxury, and it allowed a number of players to contribute. Even Jordan Farmar saw time at the shooting guard position.
The Nets should look to draft versatile players who have experience playing more than one position. In this way, Johnson can keep everyone fresh for late in the game/season.
Travis Leslie of Georgia is one of the top athletes in the draft. Though just 6’4”, he played both shooting guard and small forward due to his combination of strength and speed.
Butler guard Shelvin Mack made a name for himself during the Bulldogs run to the National Championship. Mack has experience at both guard positions, and could fill in nicely for Deron Williams or Anthony Morrow.
UCLA’s Malcolm Lee could also be an option. NBAdraft.net projects lee as the Nets pick at No. 36. He averaged 13.1 points, but would have to improve his long range shooting to thrive in a combo-guard role.
Though the Nets offense wasn’t anything too special this season, the defense needs to be improved.
The Nets had an overall point differential of -6.25 points per game—the third worst mark in the NBA.
If he slips down a few slots, Florida State small forward Chris Singleton should be snatched up by the Nets at pick No. 27.
Singleton won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award, and could help out in an area where New Jersey has struggled.
Defense wins games, and Singleton can ensure this phrase comes to fruition.
Howard is a free agent following the 2012 season, and the rumors have already swirled about where he will sign.
The Nets plan on making a run at Howard, who will hopefully join Deron Williams in leading the charge to Brooklyn.
If the Magic feel they won’t be able to re-sign Howard, they will look to make a trade to get as much value as possible—similar to what the Denver Nuggets did with Carmelo Anthony and Utah Jazz did with Williams.
In addition to the two draft picks, the Nets would likely have to include current center Brook Lopez and maybe even Kris Humphries or Anthony Morrow. If the Magic’s asking price is too steep come draft time, New Jersey may opt to wait it out and propose a trade during the season.
However, if a deal can be made, the Nets draft picks would become obsolete.
The Prudential Center may have the feel of Cameron Indoor Stadium if the following scenario plays out.
The Nets could opt to draft two Duke Blue Devils: Nolan Smith at No. 27 and Kyle Singler at No. 36.
Smith appears to be a perfect NBA role player who can start occasionally at either guard position, while Singler could also start or provide quality minutes off the bench at small forward.
For this to happen, both players would have to slip a few spots, according to NBAdraft.net’s projection. Smith is projected at No. 24 and Singler at No. 28.
Even if Smith is picked where projected, the Nets could still take Singler at No. 27.
If the Nets are lucky enough, drafting these teammates will continue the chemistry they developed while at Duke.